Family Visit

My aunt and uncle from Tennessee came up last week for a visit. They were actually doing their own AK vacation and planned a few days in the Denali area.

Since rental car companies aren't fond of their vehicles being taken on dirt roads we all loaded up in our truck one day and went out on the Denali Highway. We drove not quite halfway across it and had lunch at a beautiful clear creek that feeds into the Susitna River.

After lunch, John did some fly fishing for arctic grayling while the rest of us relaxed and soaked up the sunshine. He caught eight by the way, the biggest one about 13 inches.

Great place for a nap!

That evening we had dinner at our cabin, then went out on the Stampede Road a ways to see if the mountain was out and glass for some critters. Saw one moose that quickly vamoosed, and while enjoying the silence of the night we heard wolves howl in the distance. It was a very special moment, one to always remember, and a first for the summer and in the area (our backyard!).

Kathleen decided to go for a four-wheeler ride, then the two of us rode down the trail a little bit to have some fun in the mud!

The next morning, bright and early, we caught a bus for a ride into the park. It was a beautiful day...the mountain was booming! This is the first view from about 10 miles into the park.

We saw caribou scattered about all day long. The first were spotted on the ridgeline.
The next couple were spotted coming down the hill. Sometimes they were running full speed. Normally it's the bugs that make them do that. I would go crazy too if bugs were trying to burrow into my skin and lay eggs in my nostrils.

One caribou decided the road was a good path to take for a while. We just had to be patient for about 20 minutes until it went back to the tundra.
Expansive views from Polychrome Pass. And fresh snow on the mountains!
We saw three fox throughout the day.
This one thought the road was a good travel option as well.
"Why is this bus following me?"
We saw a sow grizzly with two cubs at a distance. They seemed very content feeding in the tundra.

Getting close to that grand view of Denali...

View from Stoney Hill.

View from Eileson Visitor Center, about 33 miles from the mountain.
Portrait time

This is always fun! And a work-out, those caribou antlers are heavy.

This is a cross fox, cinnamon in color. Not seen as commonly. It was hard to tell but it has something in its mouth...maybe a ground squirrel.

Cow caribou just hanging out. They look so different with their dark summer coats and kind of ruff while still shedding their winter coat.
We saw a bunch of Dall sheep too, but none very close.
The last two bull caribou of the day, crossing the Savage River.

What a great day in the park! Still a very special treat for two people that have done it a few times. I don't think it will ever get old though, it's always a special experience! Thanks so much Uncle John and Aunt Kathleen for including us in your vacation and taking the time to see our cabin.

Bear Jam

Andrew and I were out in the park the other day hanging out and walking in the creek bed, seeing whatever there was to see. We saw lots of moose while in the park, probably close to a dozen by the end of the day.

We ended up on top of this small tundra covered ridge which had an amphitheater view where we could see into all the nooks and crannies up to the mountain tops. At one point we looked back towards the road and where we parked our truck, and something was definitely going on. Buses and cars were stopped watching something in the creek bed for quite some time. After a while we spotted a grizzly in the creek bed. First bear sighting of the summer (or since Canada). It probably walked right passed our truck and seemed to be following the same path as ours down the creek bed (just coincidentally, not following our scent). If we had only stayed down there we could have some great pictures. But, the distant view was exciting and very nice as well. We watched it for over a half hour, munching its way down the creek bed on soapberries and roots.

We were very cautious when we headed back to the truck using the same path. Bear butt in the bushes is all we saw when we got to the creek bed.

About a half mile from our cabin we saw mama moose and calf. It is getting so big. It has been fun watching it grow over the past couple of months.

Denali Hwy---Day 1 and 2

We decided to spend a few days on the Denali Highway with George and Leslie and the four-wheelers. The Denali Highway is about 30 miles south of Healy and is basically a huge Alaskan playground. It's a 135 mile highway running east/west that connects the George Parks Hwy. and the Richardson Hwy.

Out to explore the Denali Highway by four-wheeler! Andrew built this three sided seat for Boss that is filled with cushions.
The beginning of the Denali Highway from the Cantwell side.

Not long after the start of the highway, G&L had this great idea to unload the four-wheelers so the guys could ride the road and explore all the side trails while Leslie and I drove the trucks.

Incredible views of the Alaska Range along the way.

It was raining all around us with lightning flashing nearby, but that didn't stop the guys. While enjoying one overlook we actually witnessed a small forest fire lite up and burn out. That was pretty incredible. Raw nature.

We set camp up that night overlooking the tundra flats giving way to the AK range. There were a couple trails nearby that we wanted to explore a little more in depth.

Fine evening colors.

The next day (still en route to our destination...Valdez Creek gold mining area) Leslie and I rode the road while the guys drove the trucks.

The best view from a side trail yet! The trail trail took us up to a little knoll overlooking the Susitna River and the across from that is the Valdez Creek area where we are headed.

Camp for a few days.

With outstanding views of the Susitna River and valley.

The road we're camped on (in the picture) takes us to the Valdez Creek area.